Generic soda and cola cans

Copywriting tip 7: Brand or bland

generic cola cans

I once ran a two-day copywriting workshop for a major bank.

Day one, they shared some of their copy.

It had me worried.

So, day two, I put their copy up on screen.

I opened it in Word. Then went to ‘Find’ and ‘Replace’.

I replaced every instance of their brand name with that of their main competitor.

You know what? It still read perfectly.

Their copy was generic. Bland. Not unique to the brand.

One of our roles as a copywriter is to make sure we produce work (and copy) that’s unique.

A wonderful quote from 1997 Creative Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Durfee:

‘Never write an ad a competitor could sign.’

If you cover up the logo, could you tell who a piece of marketing was from?

You should. It should be in the very DNA of the writing, in the tone.

Of course, if you’ve done your homework properly, you’ve discovered what’s unique about the product, service or topic you’re writing for.

The copy and creative should also then be unique.

A couple of nice examples.

Bet you can tell at a glance who this piece of ‘keep your social distance’ marketing is for …

Kit Kat social distancing ad

Good, huh?

What about this one …

Jeep ad - explore the indoors

Or this, for a famous fast food giant who’d run out of its main product …


McDonald’s couldn’t run that last one. or Burger King.

Great job at making it unique to the brand, not bland.

So, as you’re preparing to create and write, keep asking yourself: ‘Am I making sure this is on brand and unique, or is it bland?’

It’s your job as the writer. Never present an idea or copy the competition could run.

Great advice, Jim.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image source: History Dumpster


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.